The traditions and celebrations for Lunar New Year everywhere revolve around family, fun, and lots of FOOD! Being Taiwanese Chinese, I’ll share some general facts about Lunar New Year. More specifically, in this post, I am going to highlight the Chinese New Year traditions that my family celebrates through the lens of my Taiwanese Chinese heritage.
1. Celebrations Around the World
Lunar New Year is one of Asia’s biggest festivals, with over 1.5 billion people celebrating worldwide. Some of the Asian countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year are Taiwan, Singapore, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Some of the customs vary. Countries outside of Asia with a sizeable Chinese community, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia also participate in New Year celebrations.
Here are names of Lunar New Year celebrated in other Asian countries and communities:
Seollal, Korean New Year
Tết, Vietnamese New Year
Tsagaan Sar, Mongolian New Year
Songkran, Thai New Year
Losar, Tibetan New Year
and the list goes on!
2. The Date of the Lunar New Year Festival Changes Annually
The Lunar New Year follows the lunisolar calendar, which is a calendar based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases. The first day of the month represents the new moon, and there are 12 lunar months per year. Therefore, Lunar New Year falls on different dates each year but always falls between January 21st and February 20th. Chinese Lunar New Year 2021 will be observed on February 12th. Lunar New Year in other countries tends to follow the same calendar as the Chinese Lunar New Year since many of those celebrations originated from the Chinese tradition. However, there are variations in the date and length of the celebrations.
3. The Year of the Ox 2021
This year is the year of the Ox, which is the second animal in the order of the 12-year cycle Chinese zodiac. Here’s a video that illustrates the legend of the Jade Emperor’s fateful race and the origin of the Zodiac animals.
4. The Spring Festival
The Spring Festival or “春节 chūn jié” is another common name for the New Year in Chinese. It’s in the winter, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring as a fresh beginning and appreciate what it brings along, such as planting and harvesting.
5. The Largest Annual Human Migration in the World
Lunar New Year is a popular time to travel – very popular. In fact, the Chinese Spring Festival is the “largest human migration in the world”. There’s a period called “春運 chūn yùn” right before the festival where millions of people take the journey back home to celebrate with their families.
6. People Hang Up Special Words or Couplets for Chinese Festival Decorations
During the time, families and businesses hang the Chinese characters “福 fú” and “春 chūn” upside down. The character “福 fú” means good fortune and “春 chūn” means Spring. The blessing symbol is written on diamond shape paper. People hang the word upside down, believing that the good fortune will descend down to the household or business. The writing of couplets is one of the most important traditions of this holiday.
7. Lucky Money in Red Envelopes
The traditional red envelope is known as “紅包 hóng bāo” in Mandarin, traditionally gifted by elders to children. Many young children enjoy taking the opportunity to ask for a red envelope. During the process, children say a few blessing words such as “新年快樂 xīn nián kuài lè” which means “Happy New Year.” They also say ”恭喜發財 gong xǐ fā cái“ meaning “wish you prosperity in the new year.” To make it even more interesting, young children will commonly repeat the rhyme “恭喜發財紅包拿來！gong xǐ fā cái, hóngbāo ná lái!” This roughly translates to, “I wish you prosperity in the new year—now hand over the red envelope!”
8. Fireworks and Firecrackers
It is an important custom to set off firecrackers and fireworks during this holiday period. Most people will stay up until midnight on the holiday’s New Year’s eve to launch fireworks. Traditional dances and acrobatics are also commonly seen during the festivities, with the Lion Dance as the most iconic performance.
Did you learn something new about this holiday? What are some other interesting facts about this holiday that are unique to where you live? Please feel free to comment below.